Remember the Last Time Joan Wore That Fur?

The language of style.
May 30 2012 2:07 PM

Mad Men Style: Joan’s Costume Secrets

When was the last time she wore that fur? You might be surprised.

Each week, Tom and Lorenzo analyze the costumes on Mad Men with inimitable wit and charm—showing how the work of the show’s costume designer Janie Bryant reveals character, supplements the plot, and just plain looks great. This article is a short excerpt from this week’s Mad Style post. For much, much more on the style of “The Other Woman”—from Peggy’s mod-est outfit yet to the miscalculation of Megan’s audition dress—visit tomandlorenzo.com.

120530_TVCLUB_MadMen_IMG16

And there it is: the outfit that caused us to gasp out loud. That is, of course, the fur that Roger gave her back in 1954; the one that caused her to coo, "When I wear it, I'll always remember the night I got it." Well, fuck you, Roger Sterling. That's exactly what this outfit is saying. "You ruined what we had by letting me do this, so I'm ruining what you gave me." We'd be surprised if she ever wore it again. It's one of those beautiful costuming moments that takes a sad, horrifying scene and makes it even more so once you realize what she's wearing.

This scene mimics the scene in "Waldorf Stories" when she got the mink. She's in a hotel room, in a tight black dress showing a lot of cleavage, wearing a mink and accepting a gift from a man—in this case, that sad emerald necklace.

Note that she's wearing uncharacteristically large, dangly earrings, which we've noted before have been used to signal prostitution, such as in the whorehouse scene with the Jaguar exec. Lots of prostitution surrounding this one account.

120530_MadMen_IMG15

The script fooled most of us on the timing, but Janie Bryant slipped in a little nod and wink with this bathrobe. The emerald green calls back perfectly to the emerald necklace Joan received as "payment."

120530_MadMen_IMG17

The next day: reserved and businesslike, as if nothing at all had happened. She's worn this outfit several times before. It's simply a good work dress, which is all she wanted for this day: to get up and get on as if nothing had happened. It's also one of her more demure work outfits. 

120530_TVCLUB_MadMen_IMG20

And finally, standing with—and standing out from—the partners. You will never see Joan Harris in a menswear-inspired dress, nor are you likely to see her wearing gray. It's bright colors most of the time (when she's not depressed) and this dress is almost defiantly bright. Head held high, she's not going to become a wallflower of a partner. She will proudly stand next to these men and even draw attention to herself because she knows whatever she did to become partner pales in comparison to the many things she witnessed these men do to get where they are. This is totally an "I'm here, dammit" outfit; a declaration that she will not be ashamed by what she did.

It's also extremely notable that she wore this dress when Lane called Pete a "grimy little pimp" and beat the crap out of him. It was, after all, the machinations of Lane and Pete that got her to this point.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.